Integrate and Image (BME-ECE Interdisciplinary Team)
It happens to so many patients. Feeling sick, they visit the doctor to find out what’s wrong, but then they have to wait a day or more on results.
As part of their Senior Design Project, Austin Collins (ECE), Nikka Ghalili (BME), Shannon Grover (BME), and Craig LaBoda (ECE) opted to look at how disease detection could be improved.
As members of the team, Integrate and Image, the seniors worked toward providing the groundwork research for a microfluidic label-free infectious disease diagnostic platform. Specifically, they looked at how label-free imaging and fluorescent imaging could be used to detect Influenza A.
In disease detection, DNA is typically tagged with a fluorescent label. Though this imaging is sensitive, Integrate and Image believed that combining that method with the label-free Interferometric Reflectance Imaging Sensor (IRIS) could provide more specific information about the Influenza A sample than fluorescent imaging alone.
With their game plan in mind, this then led to the next step of the project – designing a Si-SiO2 substrate that can accommodate both imaging techniques.
“We had to determine a silicon dioxide thickness that will work with both label-free imaging and fluorescent imaging,” said Collins. This would then allow the quantitative power of IRIS to be harnessed with the sensitivity of IRIS.
After fabricating the chips in Boston University’s clean room and running experiments and simulations with both imaging techniques, the team is happy to report that they have found success. They hope to publish a paper containing their results in the near future.
Integrate and Image was one of two interdisciplinary teams this year, with electrical & computer engineering students working side-by-side with biomedical engineering majors. As their customers, Professors Catherine Klapperich (BME, ME) and Selim Ünlü (ECE), were also collaborating across the two fields.
As a multidisciplinary team, our research project gave us a challenging yet exciting opportunity to widen our breadth of engineering knowledge,” LaBoda said. “In a world where drawing the line between different fields can be difficult, I believe an experience such as this exposes you to what’s out there, broadening your job possibilities and providing you with an upper-hand in the real world.”
Though the seniors’ main goal was to provide initial evidence on the outcome of using label-free imaging in disease detection, they have high hopes for their research.
They wrote in their project description: “In the future, the presented research can be integrated into a single microfluidic ‘lab-on-a-chip’ platform which can be used as a point of care diagnostic device.”